This winter, the Art Institute of Chicago
celebrates the unique relationship between Chicago and one of the preeminent artists of the 20th centuryPablo Picassowith special presentations, singular paintings on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and programs throughout the museum befitting the artists unparalleled range and influence. The centerpiece of this celebration is the major exhibition Picasso and Chicago, on view from February 20 through May 12, 2013 in the Art Institutes Regenstein Hall, which features more than 250 works selected from the museums own exceptional holdings and from private collections throughout Chicago. Representing Picassos innovations in nearly every mediapaintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and ceramicsthe works not only tell the story of Picassos artistic development but also the citys great interest in and support for the artist since the Armory Show of 1913, a signal event in the history of modern art.
The 1913 Armory Show showcased the works of the most radical European artists of the day alongside their progressive American contemporaries and forever changed the artistic landscape for artists, collectors, critics, and cultural institutions in the United States. Unlike the other venues for the Armory Show in New York and Boston, which were private institutions, the Art Institute enjoys the distinction of being the only art museum to host the exhibition and as such, has the privilege of being the first in the United States to present the works of such artists as Constantin Brâncusi, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Matisse, and Picasso to the public. Indeed, Chicagos interest in Picassos art would grow over the years, leading to a number of important distinctions: as just one remarkable example, in 1967 the city welcomed the artists first monumental work of public sculpture.
It is clear in even the briefest of histories that Chicago played a critical, early role in the reception and development of modern art in the United States, said Stephanie DAlessandro, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute and curator of the exhibition. While the career of Pablo Picasso is just one of many examples, it is nonetheless an extraordinary story: some of the most significant events in the reception of his artincluding the first presentation of Picassos works at an American art museum, the first solo show devoted to the artist outside a commercial gallery, and the first permanent display of his work in an American museumall happened in Chicago and all within just the first two decades of the last century. This exhibition marks the special hundred-year relationship of Pablo Picasso, and our city.
Picasso and Chicago documents the development of Picassos career alongside the growth of Chicago collectors and cultural institutions, emphasizing the storied moments of overlap that have contributed not only to the vibrant interest in Picasso today but also to the presence of nearly 400 works by the artist in the collection of the Art Institute. The museum began its Picasso collection in the early 1920s with two figural drawings, Sketches of a Young Woman and a Man (1904) and Study of a Seated Man (1905); in 1926 the Art Institute welcomed one of Picassos signature Blue Period paintings, The Old Guitarist (late 1903early 1904), as a part of a generous gift in memory of Helen Birch Bartlett. Over the subsequent decades, the museums collection has expanded to include such important paintings as the classically inspired Mother and Child (1921) and surrealist Red Armchair (1931), as well as such memorable sculptures as the Cubist Head of a Woman (Fernande) (1909), the playful Figure (1935), and the maquette for Picassos largest three-dimensional work, the Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture (196467). The Art Institute has also developed an exceptional collection of works on paper that demonstrates Picassos endless inventiveness and masterful draftsmanship, as seen in such extraordinary examples as the turbulent Minotaur (1933) and the monumental Woman Washing Her Feet (1944). Likewise, the print collection holds special works including The Frugal Meal (1904), one of only three examples of this familiar Blue Period etching printed in blue-green ink. Because of the fragility of the drawings and prints, these works from the museums collection are rarely on view, and visitors will be offered an extraordinary opportunity to see them in the context of Picassos career and the museums own collection.